St Marys was designed by John Howison, a local architect about whom relatively little is known. It was built for the Church of England between 1857-58. Before this, the land was occupied by a slate yard and the triangle of land in front occupied by sheep pens. The dedication is taken from St Mary’s Church that stood on or near the site of Castlegate car park but which was demolished to make way for the Elizabethan fortifications.
St Mary’s Church, Castlegate with the War Memorial
It cost £2,500, of which £2,000 was given by a Captain Charles Gordon, MP, and was intended to serve the growing population of Berwick, especially in the north-east part of the town, then being extensively developed. However, this largesse was suspected as being a bribe for votes and was investigated a couple of years later.
In 1856 the former sheep market was the original site of the Russian cannon now sited on the walls overlooking the estuary. This land was given to the town by he vicar in 1920 to provide a site for a war memorial.The church became redundant in 1989 and was converted for use as flats. As part of this work, floors were inserted and dormers put into the roof.
Some of the stained glass windows were removed to the museum.In the 1950s it was captured in a sketch by the artist LS lowry during one of his many visits to Berwick. The sketch was featured on an edition of the Antiques Roadshow and was later sold at auction.
The building is Grade II listed and described thus:
EXTERIOR: The church is an Early English style. The tall (91’) and very slender spire is an important part of the local townscape. The spire is polygonal and stands above a small, two stage tower at the SW end of the nave, creating a picturesque effect. The tower has a W door and buttresses against the lower stage only. The church has lancet windows throughout, with a group of three lancets at both the E and W ends. The W end is the show front, with the tower and nave W gable forming a good composition. The transept N and S facades are similar to the W end of the nave; the N transept also has a N door.
INTERIOR The interior has been subdivided to provide adult education facilities. The roof has arch-braced collars on each bay. At the centre, where transepts and nave intersect in a crossing, semi-circular trusses meet in a dramatic fashion. The chancel arch is in an Early English style, and has a continuously moulded outer order and an inner order on attached shafts with moulded bases and capitals.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION The former church of St Mary, Berwick upon Tweed, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:Early English in style, in an unarchaeological fashion late for its date, it possesses architectural presence and character.The spire is an important part of the local townscape, and the church plays a key part in the mid C19 growth of the town.In spite of major re-working, the interior retains elements of note.